Plot; In Santa Mira, California, Dr. Miles Bennell (McCarthy) is baffled when all his patients come to him with the same complaint: their loved ones seem to have been replaced by emotionless impostors. Despite others' dismissive denials, Dr. Bennell, his former girlfriend Becky (Wynter) and his friend Jack (Donovan) soon discover that the patients' suspicions are true: an alien species of human duplicates, grown from plant-like pods, is taking over the small town.
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With so many classic movies to choose from, you would think picking one each week for our #TBT Review would be easy. It isn’t. After having realized how many classics I hadn’t seen, a whole new world of film has opened up, and the choices are so plentiful as to be a bit daunting. Forging ahead, however, we settled on Invasion of the Body Snatchers this week.
A classic black and white film that takes the alien invasion / pod people theme and runs with it, Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been redone so many times it’s story has been ingrained into the public consciousness. But, would the original really be that good? Or is there a reason this film keeps getting remade?
Kevin McCarthy leads the cast in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He has a familiar face, and most viewers will recognize him, albeit as an older version of himself (for some reason, his role as the villain in UHF sticks out, despite his various other, more dramatic, film roles). He does a good job of keeping the viewer involved in the story, and plays the ever more paranoid lead character well. Viewers will be rooting for him to escape, although they may be perplexed as to how he’s going to at times.
Dana Wynter is Kevin’s co-star in this version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. While not as recognizable as Kevin, she does a decent job in her role. Unfortunately, since this was made in the 50’s, that involves playing the helpless damsel in distress and the weak link that holds Kevin back, but at least she makes it seem somewhat realistic, even if it’s not really a role women would be leaping at in today’s film world.
The rest of the cast is decent enough, and do a good job of backing up Kevin and Dana. Sam Peckinpah puts in a brief appearance as well (as a meter reader), so there is that bit of “seen before they are really famous” kick for the viewer to enjoy as well.
The plot is tried-and-true by this point, but despite that, Invasion of the Body Snatchers seems to give the story an unexpected freshness. While the viewer already knows what the premise is about, they will still enjoy watching Kevin’s character slowly unravel the dark secret his small town is hiding. It’s surprisingly entertaining, and viewers should stick with the film all the way through to the surprise ending.
Oddly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers can’t quite make up its mind as to how dark it wants to go. While there are brief moments of darkness, since the film is told in flashback, the viewer already knows Kevin’s doctor is going to make it out alive. While there are serious doubts about his love interest (Dana Wynter), the viewer always knows that Kevin is going to make it, which alleviates a lot of the suspense the scenes are building. It’s an interesting way of doing things, and while it’s not something viewers would see in today’s films (which are aiming for a darker intensity), it’s a breath of fresh air for the viewer during the film. Instead of worrying about the lead character, they instead spend their time trying to figure out how he’s going to get out of the next seemingly impossible situation.
All in all, Invasion of the Body Snatchers turned out to be surprisingly entertaining. With a decent lead actor and actress, and a cast that does a decent job of backing them up, the film manages to take a premise that everyone knows, and make it entertaining, even after the countless remakes since this film was released. Still entertaining today, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is definitely worth a look.